This article was originally published in Domus 957, April 2012
The adjective which to Dirk Vander Kooij's mind best defines his way of designing is honest. This is because it is based on experimenting with a material that states its origin, shaped by a robot that creates things "in transparency". Honesty is certainly not the first concept that springs to mind on observing the industrial robot programmed by him to "print" furniture and which, in his Eindhoven workshop, extrudes recycled plastic to forge tables and chairs by making its arm carry out a potentially infinite movement. But it surely relates to the Dutch designer and the development of his design path.
A passionate constructor since adolescence, at the age of 13 he designed a collection of tools and later started making small items of furniture for school friends and family. He went on to attend the Wood and Furniture College before enrolling at the Design Academy in Eindhoven. There he progressed from woodwork to the recycled plastic of his Elephant Skin Stool, a project developed while still at the academy.
His method of oven "firing" followed by a cooling phase, resulting in a plastic with a corrugated appearance similar to an elephant's skin, caught the eye of Ingo Maurer, who offered him a period of apprenticeship at his Munich office. Dirk's career was thus launched.
While taking his diploma in 2010, he used his new technology to produce tables (the Endless series) and exhibited them the same year at the Salone del Mobile. Again at the fair this April, he will be showing his Endless Robot (with the latest collection of objects) for the live performance at Palazzo Clerici, in conjunction with the Domus exhibition The Future in the Making. Dirk's "robotic approach" has impressed itself on his work, though he prefers to keep his distance from it. "I don't think using 3D moulds is the best way to produce any object," he explains. "I worked on the robot because there was no similar way of making what I had in mind. I do not aim to be a 3D company, but simply a designer fascinated by textures and materials."
By way of confirmation, he says his performance at the Milanese fair will consist of breaking the perfection of the chair production by intervening on its process. The robot will produce a much thicker line than the previous one (5 centimetres), pairing it with a second line and bending them while still hot to shape a new kind of chair. "Without the creative inventiveness indispensable to the quality of an object, what comes out of a 3D mould is not all that special. Machines can only produce homogeneous and absolutely cheap structures." Loredana Mascheroni